Is a vote for Trump racist

United States

Donald Trump divides the public beyond his term in office. [1] Only 5 percent of registered Democrats are satisfied with his government performance, compared to 87 percent of Republicans judge it positively. [2] Before one can take stock of Trump's presidency, it is necessary to reveal the cause of this contrary assessment: the party-political polarization of the USA.

America is more torn today than at any other point in its history. Republicans and Democrats are no longer just rival parties arguing over programs and strategies. They are like two tribes that face each other without speech or understanding, isolate themselves from each other and regard each other as enemies. [3] Their respective members see the world differently, have different lifestyles, consume different media, and only interact with like-minded people. In September 2020, a poll found that nearly 80 percent of Trump and Biden supporters had little or no close friends who supported the other candidate. [4] One reason for this is that the Democrats' bastions are prosperous urban areas, while the Republicans are rooted in the countryside and get their highest share of the vote in regions with the lowest job, population and economic growth rates.

The split has milled its way into the political system and society, and there are almost no more moderate swap voters. Trump benefited from his 2016 victory because he was able to bring radical forces into the Republican Party without traditional supporters leaving. With astonishing political skill he forged three large groups together: business liberals, evangelicals and angry citizens. Trump's primary goal of his presidency was to hold this coalition together and conduct politics exclusively for it. It is therefore not surprising that his supporters and opponents draw a diametrically opposed balance sheet of his four years in the White House. The main criterion for a fair assessment must of course be the question of whether an incumbent has taken care of the country's most important problems with democratic means and has strengthened it internally and externally.


The main topic of Trump's 2015/16 election campaign was immigration. As soon as he announced his candidacy, he rudely berated Mexican immigrants and promised: "I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will make Mexico pay for this wall." [5] Soon he was also agitating against other ethnic and ethnic groups religious minorities. His implicit message was that America was a country of Christian whites and that he would do everything to ensure that it remains so in the future. Trump knew what he was doing: racism and sexism were more important motives for whites without college education to support him than economic concerns, for example. [6]

The president only partially kept his promises: Mexico refused to pay for border installations and Congress provided little funding for them. But at the end of 2018, the immigration problem that Trump had previously largely talked about became real when tens of thousands fled from gang violence, horrific murder rates and a drought from Central America to the USA. Trump sent 5,800 soldiers to the border, had registered migrants sent back to Mexico and forced the neighbors to stop the columns of people under threat of special tariffs. At the same time, the president used the crisis to declare a national emergency and divert money from the defense budget for the construction of the wall.

Nevertheless, by the beginning of 2021, new fortifications had only been built on 76 of the 3,145-kilometer border and old ones were expanded on a further 649 kilometers. Even this was primarily symbolic politics, because the majority of illegally entered immigrants came to the USA as air passengers and stayed in the country after their visas had expired. Fewer paperless immigrants were deported under Trump than under his predecessor Barack Obama. However, since he lowered the upper limit for refugees from 84,995 (2016) to 18,000 (2020) and increased the list of countries with entry bans to 13, he was at least able to largely keep his promise of a "total and complete shutdown of the entry of Muslims" [7] . Even before the border was closed as a result of the corona pandemic, immigration and asylum policy had been tightened significantly. Between 2016 and 2019, the number of new immigrants fell from one million to 600,000 a year. [8]


In his first presidential election campaign, Trump presented himself as a successful businessman who would increase the country's growth rates to at least four percent through tax breaks and deregulation. He promised to reduce the budget deficit and to reduce the national debt within two terms of office. As president, he soon claimed that he had sparked the best economic development in US history.

The reality looked more profane: Almost all economic key data prior to Corona were in line with the trend of the previous years. Under Obama, the economy grew by an average of 2.4 percent from 2014 to 2016 and created 224,000 net jobs per month; in the first three Trump years the figures were 2.5 percent and 182,000 jobs. Accordingly, the unemployment rate fell further from 4.7 percent (December 2016) to 3.5 percent (January 2020) and thus to its lowest level in half a century. [9]

While Obama reduced the budget deficit after the inherited great recession from 9.8 percent in 2009 to 3.1 percent in 2016, under Trump it rose again to 4.6 percent (2019) despite good growth rates. The reason: Its biggest legislative success, the 2017 tax cut, cost the state between $ 1.5 trillion and $ 2 trillion, with top earners and big business benefiting the most. When the 2020 pandemic hit the economy, the budget was deep in the red, where it should have balanced after ten years of uninterrupted growth.

At the end of Trump's tenure, unemployment was 6.7 percent and the deficit was 15.2 percent, and the economy had shrunk by 3.5 percent in 2020. However, gigantic non-partisan economic programs of almost four trillion dollars, around 20 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), mitigated the worst corona consequences.

Trade disputes

For decades, Trump had been obsessed with the idea that other states were taking advantage of the US in trade and that American presidents were doing too little. The basis for this was his belief that trade deficits are economically harmful because the country "loses" money and prosperity to its competitors. [11] Trump was wrong in economic theory and painted an incorrect picture of reality. In 2016, for example, the USA had a deficit in the exchange of goods of 750 billion dollars. But they were the world's largest exporter in trade in services such as finance, travel, and intellectual property, generating a $ 257 billion surplus - the largest with China and Canada. Not least because of this, the foreign trade deficit in 2016 was 2.7 percent of GDP, well below its high of 6 percent in 2006. [12]

As little as Trump's trade deficit fixation made economic sense, it was politically entangled. Allegedly unfair foreign trading partners, like immigrants, were ideal scapegoats for the fear of relegation of many voters. Immediately after taking office, Trump terminated the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which his predecessor had signed with eleven states in 2016. In the following years he revised the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and put massive pressure on nations with trade surpluses. He repeatedly imposed punitive tariffs, which caused high costs for domestic producers and consumers and poisoned relations with other countries. But Trump was not about economic benefit, but about showing determination and strength. For him all that counted was that Mexico, Canada, South Korea and Japan had to submit to the concentrated power of the largest economy on the planet and its president, and he his supporters in the so-called rust belt The United States was able to assure that it has held the guilty party accountable for their misery.

From the spring of 2018, Trump took on a rival on an equal footing: Against the advice of almost all economists, many foreign trade organizations and hundreds of companies, he imposed punitive tariffs on more than 1,300 Chinese imported goods amounting to 50 billion dollars "in response to years of unfair trade practices". [13] Beijing did not give in, however, but paid back with the same coin. Although Trump had assured his constituents that trade wars were easy to win, after several rounds of escalation in early 2020 he agreed to a truce with China. Now entrepreneurs and consumers have to live with high tariff barriers in the long term.

In fact, the Chinese trade surplus fell from $ 347 billion to $ 311 billion between 2016 and 2020 - but only because American companies were now increasingly shopping in countries like Mexico or Vietnam. As a result, the minus increased with these states. Overall, the Trump trade deficit rose from $ 513 billion to $ 679 billion. Statistically, the punitive tariff policy cost every household $ 1,000 a year. In addition, US companies barely relocated jobs back home, but built factories in low-wage countries that were not affected by tariffs. Worst of all, of course, was that Trump destroyed confidence in the predictability and reliability of American commitments and damaged the World Trade Organization's trading system, which the United States helped to create.

Culture wars

Trump had satisfied the angry citizens with his aggressive immigration and trade policies, and the economic liberals with his deregulations and tax cuts. Now he had to serve his third major block of voters: the evangelicals. They found themselves on the losing road in the fight against the secularization of society. Their proportion of the population fell, their norms were under pressure; In 2015, the Supreme Court even legalized same-sex marriages. The main concern of the evangelicals was to overturn liberal abortion law. Their central demand was therefore the appointment of conservative judges.

And Trump delivered: With the unanimous support of the Republican-dominated Senate, he appointed more than a quarter of all active federal judges. In the major appellate courts in particular, no president had filled more posts in such a short time - "with the efficiency of a bulldozer," as one expert noted. [14] In doing so, the White House made sure that it nominated almost exclusively younger candidates who conservative associations had previously found politically reliable. Because federal judges are appointed for life in the US, they can rule the jurisdiction for decades.

The biggest prize was Trump's three positions in the nine-member Supreme Court. About a week after he took office, President Neil Gorsuch named after the Republicans, disregarding previous practice, for almost a year refused to give Obama's candidates a hearing for the vacant position. When Democratic senators resisted, the Republicans removed the "super majority" of 60 votes (with a total of 100 seats) required up until then for confirmation and pushed their candidate through. In October 2018, Trump replaced a resigned moderate judge with Brett Kavanaugh, and shortly before he was voted out, the late icon of the left, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with Amy Coney Barrett.

This means that there are now six conservative judges versus three liberal judges in the Supreme Court. At the same time, Trump changed many state regulations on abortion and the rights of non-heterosexuals in the spirit of evangelicals. They soon saw him as the president who had done more for them than any of his predecessors since Ronald Reagan.

Foreign policy

If during the Cold War the promise of a strong foreign policy was a plus for every presidential candidate, afterwards the candidate who promised to withdraw from global obligations always won. Trump, however, took the frustration of America's role in the world widespread among large numbers of voters into a new dimension. With the tailwind of intervention fiasco, global financial crisis and terror from the "Islamic State" (IS), he revived three old foreign policy ideas: isolationism, nationalism and unilateralism. He merged this mix of concepts under the slogan "America First".

Trump's worldview knows no international dependencies, multilateral cooperations and grown alliances, but only belief in one's own power. He understood foreign policy in purely business terms as the handling of selective, primarily economic transactions, whereby reliability, transparency and trust played no role. Therefore partners could be changed quickly, opponents could quickly mutate into friends - and vice versa. Trump admired authoritarian leaders for being able to negotiate "man-to-man" deals without domestic political consideration. He was driven almost manically by the goal of erasing Obama's foreign policy, which he saw as a symbol of American weakness. Ultimately, however, he was primarily concerned with self-glorification. If there was a "Trump Doctrine," a pattern that was evident in his major foreign policy initiatives, it was to make him appear as a determined and unconventional leader.

The main challenge for the US is the rise of China. After Beijing had restrained itself in foreign policy for a long time and liberalized domestically, the global financial crisis of 2008/09 saw a turnaround. The leadership of the Communist Party now felt strong enough to brutally enforce its dictatorship inside and to proceed expansively outside. Trump saw this more clearly than his predecessors and made China the main adversary of the US. However, instead of forging alliances and opposing Beijing in every field, he went it alone and focused on the trade balance. There was no success: at the end of his term in office, China was in a stronger position - also because it skillfully filled the leadership vacuum created by Trump in free trade and pandemic control as well as in the Middle East and Europe.

The same was true of the second major international rival, Russia. Trump also weakened the American position towards Moscow: through his submissive behavior towards Russian President Vladimir Putin, the relativization of Russian cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns, the blackmailing of Ukraine, but mostly through the sabotage of NATO and the European Union as well as the trade wars with allies. If the US Congress had not repeatedly crossed it, the damage to the US would have been even greater.

Trump's policies also failed in the Middle East. In Syria and Afghanistan, as well as with Iran, Turkey and the Kurds, his zigzag course undermined Washington’s influence. The cancellation of the nuclear deal negotiated by Obama and the policy of "maximum pressure" did not allow Tehran to give in as promised. Instead, the country enriched uranium beyond the agreed limits and expanded its position in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. The president supported Saudi Arabia unreservedly during its war in Yemen and after the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was critical of the regime, because he did not want to snub it as the most important buyer of American arms. At the same time, he did not react when Iran shot down a US drone and militias controlled by it attacked Saudi oil plants.

During the Syrian civil war, Trump had government positions bombed after the government had repeatedly used poison gas against the opposition. But he had no strategy for ending the war. IS, which still ruled large parts of Syria and Iraq in 2016, was destroyed by the American air force with the help of Kurdish and Iraqi allies as well as Iranian fighters. With the hasty withdrawal from northern Syria, Trump delivered the Kurds to Turkish aggression and further damaged the reputation of the USA as a reliable partner. In Afghanistan, Trump concluded an agreement with the Taliban in 2020, to which the allied government in Kabul was ready for a quick troop withdrawal.

The establishment of diplomatic relations between four Arab states (Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Morocco) and Israel was a diplomatic success for Trump in his final months in office. But it came at a high price: the core problem of the Middle East conflict, the fate of the Palestinians, was not taken into account. With the unreserved support of the Israeli government and the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem in 2018, Trump had previously sabotaged the internationally agreed two-state solution and given up Washington's role as an "honest broker". Comprehensive peace in the region thus became even more distant.

Trump supporters point out that, unlike his predecessors since Jimmy Carter (1977–1981), he did not start any new wars.It is correct: Trump had Syrian positions, the Taliban, Russian mercenaries and IS bombed. It approved more drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen than its two predecessors combined, and increased them dramatically in Afghanistan. The number of civilians killed there tripled compared to 2016. The most prominent victim of the drone operations was the Iranian general Quasem Suleimani at the beginning of 2020, which further exacerbated the tense situation in the Persian Gulf. Trump also unreservedly supported Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen and delivered the weapons to Riyadh. With martial rhetoric and simultaneous indecision, he maneuvered himself into the worst of all worlds: opponents felt provoked, partners betrayed.

Nowhere was Trump's penchant for foreign policy show more visible than in his three summit meetings with Kim Jong-un. Unprepared and without diplomatic experience, the president believed that he could induce the North Korean dictator, whom he had threatened "fire and wrath" from the US a few months earlier, to give up his nuclear weapons through flattery and economic incentives. But Kim presented the self-proclaimed big dealmaker: He got prestigious meetings with the US president and at the same time pushed ahead with his nuclear armament and missile development. Washington, on the other hand, was left empty-handed.

Trump's worst mistake, however, was turning away from the liberal, rule-based world order that the United States created after 1941 and that all US presidents have maintained since then. At its core are the multilateral and bilateral alliance agreements with almost 70 nations. Failure to recognize the political and military weight this alliance system gives Washington over rivals such as China and Russia revealed Trump's lack of understanding of strategic relationships. Playing with the idea of ​​leaving NATO, supporting Brexit, declaring the EU an enemy, endangering relations with long-term partners in East Asia and Europe because of trade disputes - that made the enemies of the West triumph. What Moscow and Beijing failed to achieve with their threats and extortion policies, namely weakening the ties between liberal democracies, Trump delivered them on a silver platter. Instead of consistently opposing opponents, strengthening existing alliances, establishing new ones and undergoing the arduous task of reforming international organizations and regulations, Trump withdrew America from global obligations such as the Paris Climate Agreement or the World Health Organization, damaged decades of partnerships and drove old allies into the arms of adversaries.


In the eyes of his supporters, Trump was a successful president. The appointment of judges, especially in the Supreme Court, the tax cuts and the reduction of immigration are seen as his greatest achievements. They valued his constant break with established norms, his attacks on "the elites" and the feeling that someone gave them a voice and named people to blame for their needs and worries in confusing times. And they credited him for having acted aggressively internationally, imposed punitive tariffs and unconditionally supported the Israeli government.

However, if you measure your term of office against the stated goal of "making America great again", the result is sobering. With the exception of the criminal law reform that reduced long sentences for petty criminals, the programs to combat the economic crisis and the "Warp Speed ​​Initiative" for rapid vaccine production, there were hardly any successes for the nation as a whole during his presidency. Trump did not have a vision to permanently strengthen the competitiveness and thus the prosperity of the country and to alleviate the social and political upheavals. His foreign policy was superficial and contradictory. He ruled with a mix of impulsive decisions, falsehoods, self-praise and reality TV show demeanor, which did not solve a single problem and weakened the USA as a whole.

Trump also leaves a toxic legacy in party politics. Hailed as a great winner by the Republicans in 2016, he lost the House of Representatives in 2018, the Presidency in 2020 and the Senate in 2021. When he left the White House, the party was xenophobic, hostile to minorities, anti-intellectual, protectionist and fiscally irresponsible. A considerable proportion of their supporters and elected representatives have radicalized themselves under Trump's constant agitation and lies, revering him to this day like the high priest of a cult, adhering to conspiracy ideologies and rejecting democratic processes.

Trump's leadership and character deficits, which shaped his entire term of office, became particularly glaring in the Corona crisis: disparaging experts, spreading absurd ideas, shifting blame on others, dismissing critics, overestimating himself, satisfying personal thirst for revenge. What already undermined the office and the political system in normal times has now cost human lives. The pandemic also relentlessly exposed how little the US was still capable of global leadership under this president. Unlike after the attacks of September 11, 2001, in the financial crisis from 2008 or in health emergencies caused by AIDS or Ebola, Washington no longer made any efforts to forge international coalitions and coordinate multilateral responses.

Most dangerous to democracy is Trump's legacy. Although the institutions withstood his fantasies of omnipotence and federalism and justice proved themselves as counterweights, he massively damaged the written and unwritten norms of the constitutional system. With his extensive interpretation of his own competencies, with breaking customs and taboos, with disregarding regulated decision-making processes and, last but not least, with governing Twitter, he tried to concentrate extraordinary power in himself. The climax of his authoritarian understanding of politics was reached when Trump denied his election defeat, spread baseless accusations of fraud, urged party friends to manipulate the election and finally incited a mob to storm parliament. In doing so, he was fighting the greatest good of any democracy: the peaceful transfer of power based on the result of free and fair elections. None of his 44 predecessors was guilty of such a capital political crime. This brought Trump as the first incumbent a second impeachment procedure and finally made him the worst president in US history.